David Asman: On July 4th, remember why US is a magnet for immigrants – like my wife, now a proud citizen

I share with you a letter I wrote to friends in 1999, on the day of my wife's naturalization ceremony

Vice President Mike Pence paid tribute to 16 new Americans from 12 different nations Thursday at a naturalization ceremony in Washington. Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, gave the oath. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung.

No one thought for a moment of taking a knee.

On the contrary, the new citizens who immigrated here from a variety of countries – including Turkey, Ethiopia and El Salvador – were all proud to have worked so hard to become part of a nation that would provide them with a level of freedom and security unattainable in their home countries.

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David and MC Asman in 1988 and 2020,

David and MC Asman in 1988 and 2020,

I know they were all proud, even though I wasn't at that ceremony. That's because I attended a similar ceremony two decades ago in New York, at which my wife became a citizen. There was not a dry eye in the room. But more importantly, there was not a smidgen of regret or disdain for what this country proudly represents and guarantees its citizens.

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It's important on this particular July Fourth – at a time of riotous protests and onerous COVID-19 lockdown rules – to spend a moment seeing the United States of America through the eyes of new citizens. With that in mind, I share with you a letter I wrote to friends in 1999, on the day of my wife's naturalization ceremony:

"It's easy to forget how fortunate we all are simply to have been born here. We should never take our extraordinary rights for granted.

“Every citizen should be required to spend one day a year at a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens. There's a special look on the faces of folks who've come from places where rights are temporary at best, subject to the whims and prejudice of a ruling elite, whose rights supersede those of the governed.

“On the day these folks become citizens, their face and demeanor changes. Beyond the joy and relief, there is a genuine pride that shines through – a pride in having gone through the citizenship process, and more profoundly realizing that their rights have been locked in as securely as those of any other citizen. 

“I saw that look on my wife's face today as she became a U.S. citizen. I'll never forget that look, or the determination of the many who will never take their new-found rights for granted.

“Thanks to you all for your support and good wishes."

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That was 21 years ago. But I believe that achieving that sense of pride is still what motivates foreigners to flock to the U.S. The hard-fought freedoms that we celebrate on this day are not taken for granted or denigrated by those who labored to share in their blessings.

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And while we could all use a refresher course on exactly how unique those freedoms are in this world, most of us would never think of degrading – let alone tearing down the images – and representations of those who struggled and in many cases died trying to make ours a more perfect union.

So let us not be shy or shamed about loudly celebrating and honoring our flag, our country and the fortitude of those who have fought and are still fighting to protect our freedoms, now shared with new citizens of the United States of America.

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